Virgin Galactic’s grand dream realised with spaceport opening

16 Aug 2019

Image: Virgin Galactic/PA

Virgin Galactic has opened the world’s first commercial spaceport in New Mexico as it prepares to take passengers to the edge of space.

Virgin Galactic has said the world’s first specifically designed commercial spaceport is “operationally functional”. The company, owned by billionaire businessman Richard Branson, announced the transfer of all its spaceflight operations to Spaceport America in New Mexico on Thursday (15 August).

Virgin Galactic had been carrying out test flights from Mojave, California, including the first successful launch of its tourism rocket plane into space in December last year.

More than 600 people have already paid $80m in deposits to the company to secure their tickets on the first spaceflights. The business has now revealed the interior of its ‘Gateway to Space’ building at the spaceport – including two floors primarily focused on spaceflight operations and a further floor of communal spaces specifically designed for future customers.

With the completion of the interior work, the company said the spaceport facility can now “support Virgin Galactic’s flight requirements”. The company has said the communal area is specifically designed for astronauts to share their experience with pilots, rocket engineers and operatives from Mission Control.

The SpaceShip Two launcher waiting on the tarmac at Virgin Galactic's Spaceport America.

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two on the tarmac at Spaceport America. Image: Virgin Galactic/PA

Last month, Virgin Galactic announced its merger with New York-listed Social Capital Hedosophia to set itself up to become the first and only publicly traded commercial human spaceflight company.

Commenting on the unveiling of the new spaceport, the company said: “Virgin Galactic has striven to remain faithful to that tradition by choosing an elegant, experience-focused concept for the space launch system itself. Similarly, the company’s choice to operate from Spaceport America in New Mexico was due in no small part to the state’s decision to commission landmark architecture for the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport.

“The Foster and Partners Gateway to Space facility pays homage to the past in its respect for the ancient surrounding landscape while powerfully embracing the future through energy efficiency and sustainability. It was also specifically designed to enable Virgin Galactic to create an unparalleled experience as its customers prepare for journeys of a lifetime before graduating as astronauts.”

– PA Media